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Sir Archibald Alison, 1st Baronet, FRSE (29 December 1792 – 23 May 1867) was a Scottish advocate (attorney) and historian. He held several prominent legal appointments. He was the younger son of the Episcopalian cleric and author Archibald Alison. His elder brother was the physician and social reformer William Alison.
The University College London, Legacies of British Slave-ownership, two projects based at UCL tracing the impact of slave-ownership on the formation of modern Britain: (the ESRC-funded Legacies of British Slave-ownership project, now complete, and the ESRC and AHRC-funded Structure and significance of British Caribbean slave-ownership 1763-1833, running from 2013-2015), highlight that, Sir Archibald Alison 1st Bart., benefited from the compensation paid out following the abolition of slavery in 1833. According to the record, he benefited from a payment of £4,081,18s,10d, an approximate £346,000 in 2015, made by the government of United Kingdom and Great Britain as recorded by the Slave Compensation Commission and the records held at the National Archives in London. The record containing the facts discovered can be found at the UCL's Legacies of British Slave-ownership database, and the National Archive and the records of the Slave Compensation Commission.
When travelling in France in 1814 he conceived the idea of his expansive History of Europe from the commencement of the French revolution to the restoration of the Bourbons. This multi-volume set is usually regarded as Alison's chief historical work and is considered to be the first scholarly English-language study of the French Revolution. Published in ten volumes between 1833 and 1843, History of Europe was revised and reprinted many times throughout the century, including numerous foreign language editions. The work is one of vast industry, "contain[ing] a wealth of information communicated in a vigorous though wordy style."
Disraeli satirises the author in Coningsby as Mr. Wordy, who wrote a history to prove that Providence was on the side of the Tories. Such criticism notwithstanding, History of Europe proved to be a huge commercial success. By 1848 100,000 copies had been sold in the United States. It was translated into French, German, and even Arabic, in which language 2,000 copies were published "under the auspices of the Pasha of Egypt." Alison also composed a comprehensive survey of the military campaigns of the Duke of Marlborough, as well as two standard works on the criminal law of Scotland.
Alison died at Possil House, Glasgow, at the age of 74, and was interred in Dean Cemetery, Edinburgh. He enjoyed great popularity in Glasgow. His funeral was attended by a crowd of from 100,000 to 150,000 people. His grave lies amid the "Lord's Row" against the western wall, and is modest in comparison to most in this section.
^"It was by far the best-selling history of the French Revolution in England and America almost to the end of the century, and was translated into most European and several oriental languages." -- Ben Israel, Hedva (1968). English Historians of the French Revolution. London: Cambridge University Press, p. 152.
^Disraeli, Benjamin (1844). Conningsby, Vol. 1. London: Henry Coulburn, p. 265.
Michie, Michael (1997). An Enlightenment Tory in Victorian Scotland: The Career of Sir Archibald Alison. Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press.
Michie, Michael (2006). "On behalf of the Right': Archibald Alison, Political Journalism, and Blackwood's Conservative Response to Reform, 1830-1870." In: Print Culture and the Blackwood Tradition. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, pp. 119-45.
Milne, Maurice (1995). "Archibald Alison: Conservative Controversialist," Albion, Vol. XXVII, No. 3, pp. 419-443.
Shiels, Robert S. (2010). "Crown Counsel: From Sir Archibald Alison to Lord Brand." In: Essays in Criminal Law in Honour of Sir Gerald Gordon. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, pp. 286-304.